Apr 16 2009

Hey, Yes is touring with Asia this summer

Published by Brandon Wu under Prog

Yawn.

3 responses so far

Apr 10 2009

Marc Ducret’s “eleven-tet”

Published by Brandon Wu under Avant-Garde, Jazz, New Releases

That’s so obviously not a word. Sue me.

Via Downtown Music Gallery’s invaluable newsletter comes info about this release, which I hadn’t known anything about at all, until now. Ducret, the avant-jazz guitarist whom I know and love through his work with Tim Berne, has apparently put together an 11-piece group (instrumentation: guitar, bass, drums, keys, sampler, vibes, 3x reeds, trumpet, trombone) and recorded an album called Le Sens de la Marche, about which Bruce Lee Gallanter of DMG gushes:

This is most likely the largest ensemble (11 piece) that Marc Ducret has led, certainly on record it is. It would seem that Marc has taken some time to compose this adventurous music and whip this ensemble into shape. No easy feat since the music is complex and the group is super-tight and obviously inspired… “Total Machine” starts with Ducret’s distinctive sleek guitar tone with some twisted yet funky horns in counterpoint (great bari in there). When that marimba soon enters and the horns play those intricate arrangements it feels we have entered Zappa-land via The Grand Wazoo. I dig the way the band is broken into a few different layered and inter-connected parts simultaneously, another great trick that us Zappa fans savor. The first smokin’ sax solo comes from Hugues Mayot, with the rest of the band in splendid form around him cheering him on. This piece ends with a suspense-filled minimalist dreamscape that is surprising but works perfectly to let us down slowly back to the planet earth. “Tapage” is another Grand Wazoo-like piece with an ominous marching beat, layers of horns, superb vibes solo and some incredibly tight and complex rhythm team work. The interplay between the guitar and clavinet is especially snazzy. Although “Le Menteur Dans L’Annexe” starts with a calm, thoughtful intro we soon find our way into an intense, crazed el. guitar and Fender Rhodes duo, then back to some ‘Waka Jawaka’-like wackiness with layers of goofy spoken word vocals in the background. At nearly 73 minutes, this treasure has to be one of the best and most ample progressive/jazz-rock discs of this year or any other year in recent memory.

<wipes drool off keyboard>

3 responses so far

Apr 09 2009

My review of the new Agoraphobic Nosebleed

Published by Brandon Wu under Metal, New Releases

…is now over at the Washington City Paper, print version out tomorrow. I liked the album. Some of the diehard grindcore freaks on the Internets are already all pissed off because Agorapocalypse isn’t, well, pissed-off enough, but I have a feeling they’ll be in the minority. It’s a good record.

Things that didn’t make that review due to a pretty strict word limit:

  • The album starts off all thrashy and grindy, but then seems to slow down as a whole by track 5.
  • “Question of Integrity” ends with a drum solo, which is implicitly hilarious since all the drums on the album are programmed.
  • Those programmed drums sound really good. In the past they clearly didn’t sound real, although that wasn’t really a problem since it almost seemed intentional (after all the band was going for unrealistic bpm heights).
  • Kat’s vocals fucking slay. I think her voice might annoy some of the old fans, but as a fan coming from as much a death metal as a grindcore background, I love what she adds to ANb’s sound.
  • “Moral Distortion” ends with the quote, “My National Enquirer says that musicians cannot play a single note unless they eat drugs first!” Which I just find really hilarious for some reason.

That’s all. Fun album. Out next Tuesday, and the vinyl version contains a bonus track apparently.

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Apr 07 2009

Recently watched: a great Zu live video

Published by Brandon Wu under Avant-Garde, Jazz

The above is a clip from a DVD I grabbed from Dimeadozen a couple days ago, filmed at Zu’s release show for their new album Carboniferous. It’s representative of the quality of the DVD - excellent audience recording, steady camera, pretty good sound. About an hour long, which, like any of Zu’s actual albums, teeters right on the edge of being too exhausting to get through in one sitting. This band is a rhythm-and-noise monster, with few melodies to divert attention from the pummeling beats and the unfathomable sounds that Luca Mai (bari sax) and Massimo Pupillo (bass) manage to squeeze out of their instruments.

Maybe it’s just the camera angle, but Mai in particular is a looming beast, shrieking, squawking and skronking his way through the Carboniferous songs in a way that’s just mesmerizing. I love how he beats on his sax when he’s not playing - the sound on this recording isn’t quite good enough for me to tell if it’s actually to add another percussive layer to the sound, or if he’s just in a performative trance, tapping out the rhythm absent-mindedly as he waits his turn to tear shit up.

Good stuff.

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Apr 04 2009

Maryland Deathfest VII

Published by Brandon Wu under Concert, Metal

So Baltimore hosts a crazy death metal festival every year since 2003… the lineup has never really caught my eye that much, until this year. There are a ton of bands I want to see this time around, so I’m going to Saturday and Sunday (missing Friday for work reasons and to see St. Vincent here in DC).

Here are the bands that will be there. The ones in boldface are the ones I know and like and plan to see, but many of the others I’ve never heard (there are only a couple I’ve heard and dislike). If you know anything about any of these bands that I don’t, make a recommendation!

I also posted this to the extreme metal private thread at ProgressiveEars, and from recommendations there so far, I’m going to be checking out Maruta and Rotten Sound in addition to what’s highlighted below…

Friday, May 22nd:
Asphyx, Mayhem, Marduk, Venomous Concept, Cephalic Carnage, Cattle Decapitation, Victims, Sayyadina, Pigsty, Jig-Ai, Gnostic, Hero Destroyed, Triac

Saturday, May 23rd:
Bolt Thrower, Atheist, Napalm Death, Brutal Truth, Immolation, Hail of Bullets, General Surgery, Phobia, Birdflesh, Pig Destroyer, Wolves in the Throne Room, Misery Index, Rotten Sound, Flesh Parade, Unearthly Trance, Pretty Little Flower, Crowpath, Man Must Die, Weekend Nachos, Maruta, Drugs of Faith

Sunday, May 24th:
Pestilence, Abscess, Destroyer 666, Aura Noir, Absu, Sigh, Devourment, The Red Chord, Trap Them, Despise You, Antigama, Yakuza, Krallice, Splitter, Kill the Client, Catheter, Lair of the Minotaur, Magrudergrind, The Endless Blockade, Complete Failure

I’m most excited about Crowpath by a long shot, but also really psyched to see Yakuza, Pig Destroyer and Kill the Client. This is going to be awesome. Even if I have a monstrous, pounding headache when all is said and done.

2 responses so far

Apr 03 2009

Not finished with Joanna Newsom yet…

Published by Brandon Wu under Indie-Rock, Music Criticism

The other night I rediscovered an old audience video recording of Joanna Newsom playing live in Philly. I wrote this one up favorably before, but Mike McLatchey does it better at Outer Music Diary. Here’s part of what he said:

…where I was expecting something related to indie rock, I ended up watching a virtuoso harpist and band play a unique blend of folk music, classical sophistication and modern song stylings. Vocally she reminds me quite a bit of a nascent Alanis Morrisette although a Morrisette infected by some old Appalachian folk singer. It’s clear she’s a prodigy and while I was warned about her voice, which must have spawned from the fact she hadn’t started singing until recently, I found her style to be warm and intimate. Her harp playing is another matter, it at least seems masterful, an adjective I’m hesitant to use being that I can count the harpists I know on one hand. But this is skill, just watching her two hands, as independent as a good drummer’s, play counter melodies and rhythms, often changing or doubling tempos within an overall 4 beat itself, was mesmerizing. It’s kind of baffling she has the popularity she does, although her combination of accessible songcraft with virtuoso musicianship is a rare one.

Yes: the joy of this video is getting to see Newsom play harp. Wow. Oh hey, and the torrent is still (barely) alive at Dimeadozen, amazingly enough. Go fetch if you’re a fan, you won’t regret it.

EDIT: Please click through to the comments for a direct download of the video. Thanks to Will Davis!

2 responses so far

Apr 02 2009

Yoshi’s and Amoeba Music, Oh My!

Published by Brandon Wu under General, Lists

Aquarius Records

A few weeks ago I was in San Francisco, in part to visit an old friend, in part to see a few shows of John Zorn’s 6-night residency at Yoshi’s. I wrote all about the concerts I saw over at the City Paper, but the brief summary is: Bar Kokhba: wow!; The Dreamers: meh; Electric Masada: holy shit my life is complete. Also: Yoshi’s is a pretty sweet place to see jazz. A little swanky for my tastes, but the one-item minimum is quite reasonable (much better than, say, the $10 minimum at fucking Blues Alley here in DC) and the sushi is totally amazing. Also, for the last Electric Masada set I had fantastic seats up in the balcony, dead center, perfect view of everything.

I also stumbled into Aquarius Records - I am on their mailing list but kind of forgot they’re in SF, and was wandering around my friend’s neighborhood when we came across it. What a great store. As in the pic above, they have these hand-printed reviews taped onto every single CD they sell in the store. Really, every single one. Very obvious that the people who work here love their music. Props!

And, of course, I went to Amoeba Music, which is a very very dangerous place for me, and I walked out with…

  • Æthenor - Faking Gold and Murder
  • Bozulich, Carla - Red Headed Stranger
  • Claudia Quintet, The - Semi-Formal
  • Coleman, Ornette - Free Jazz
  • Coltrane, John - Sun Ship
  • Coltrane, John - Live in Japan (4 CDs)
  • Coup, The - Kill My Landlord
  • Crow, Sheryl - Detours
  • Dresden Dolls, The - The Dresden Dolls
  • Earth - Live Europe 2006
  • Faun Fables - The Transit Rider
  • Flying Luttenbachers, The - Cataclysm
  • Full Blast - Black Hole/Live at Tampere (2 CDs)
  • Geraldine Fibbers, The - Butch
  • Healing Force - The Songs of Albert Ayler
  • Leng Tch’e - ManMadePredator
  • Leng Tch’e - The Process of Elimination
  • Leng Tch’e - Marasmus
  • Ligeti, György - The Ligeti Project II
  • Jarrett, Keith - Radiance (2 CDs)
  • Jewel - Goodbye Alice in Wonderland
  • Schoenberg/Sibelius - Violin Concertos (Hilary Hahn)
  • Tarentel - Live Edits: Italy/Switzerland
  • Xenakis, Iannis - Ensemble Music 2

Seriously, what a fantastic store. I got almost all of those used and cheap. I don’t even know what that Earth album is - it’s an official live album on Southern Lord, but it’s apparently out of print and a Google search turns up very little information. I’ve listened to it once so far and it seems pretty solid. Nothing transcendent but a pretty accurate representation of Earth live. I still want to track down a copy of Live Hex though…

2 responses so far

Apr 01 2009

I fucking hate April Fool’s Day

Published by Brandon Wu under General

Seriously, just don’t bother reading anything on the Internet today. It’s all people making up preposterous lies and attempting to be funny, for the sake of a stupid not-even-holiday.

Yeah and if that Joanna Newsom news turns out to be an early April Fool’s Day hoax (the thought just occurred to me and I got chills of dread) I swear I’m going to start a grassroots campaign to ban the whole damned idea.

No responses yet

Mar 31 2009

Joanna Newsom is back!!

Joanna Newsom news has been scarce ever since her 2007 EP release; she played a couple isolated shows last year but nothing else. She has no real website and no Myspace page. I’ve been stalking her ever since Ys came out, and have been vaguely worried that she got bored with music or something like that. But there’s great news: she debuted about two hours of new music (!) this past weekend, some of which saw her play piano instead of harp.

It’s always an interesting moment when one of your favorite artists takes to the stage to showcase their next evolution of musical progress. However, from the first pluck of her harp through the last note the performance was nothing short of rapturous. The makeup of her new songs combines the strong melodic presence of songs on the Milk-Eyed Mender with her continued instrumentational prowess and maturation beyond Y’s. It was unclear how many of the songs covered in the course of the two and a half hour set would ever be recorded, but there was never a sour note or “should be cut” moment to be heard. If anything a double album here would make perfect sense, and be one of the most enjoyable albums I’ve heard in ages.

Go read the full article. The sentence “after seeing her new material performed live I think it could easily be her strongest, most enjoyable album to date” also appears. So yeah, Ys might be my favorite album of the decade and I’m kind of uncontrollably excited right now.

Hat tip to the ol’ Pitchfork.

2 responses so far

Mar 31 2009

So this is the official re-launch

Published by Brandon Wu under General

For those of you coming here from the Ground & Sky main site, welcome to the redesigned blog! It’s still a work in progress - the banner at the top will change (until very recently I had the blog on a black background; now that I’ve changed it to make it easier to read, I need a new idea for a banner), and I’m still not quite done tagging and categorizing all the old entries. Lots of the old internal links will not work right now, either.

I’ve ported nearly 10 years’ worth of blog posts into this new platform, but unfortunately have not been able to move the old comments over. That might happen eventually, but not yet.

As for Ground & Sky itself, it is dormant but not completely dead. You’ll notice a few new reviews posted today (thanks Joe!). I will be periodically posting reviews still, but no promises as to frequency of updates. I’m still trying to figure out a good balance between contributing to the Washington City Paper, where I’ve been blogging for a few months as well as writing the occasional review for the print edition, and continuing work on Ground & Sky.

I have had enough people ask “what happened to Ground & Sky?” to convince me that it’s certainly an endeavor worth continuing. Thank you all for your interest. Please subscribe to this feed and keep your eyes open for new stuff at the site!

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